Aerobic Conditioning

Walking Programs

What does "Incline/Weight" mean as used in the orange and the purple programs in the Walking Programs?

To increase intensity, an incline can be used on a treadmill. Light dumbbells, ankle weights, or a back pack can be used during walking. Parents can even push or carry their kids about. Hiking on hilly terrain can also be considered.

Heart Rate

On the Rockport Walk Test you state: "the subject walks as briskly as possible for one mile". My age is 63. Will walks at a Heart Rate of 70% of (220-63) = 110 be a good choice for me? (Denmark, Europe)

Walking Program

If you are really walking as fast as you can for a mile, the test speed will probably be greater than what will be recommended for your training intensity. Since age predicted max heart rate is quite variable from person to person, it is hard to say for certain whether this heart rate will correspond to an intensity that is "as briskly as possible". See Aerobic Intensity. The important factor is you actually walk "as briskly as possible for one mile".

The test results will suggest a starting % predicted max heart rate (%PMHR). See Walking Programs. Understand your PMHR may be +/- 15 BPM so you will want to supplement your %PMHR with your rating of perceived exertion (RPE). You may want to work up to "Somewhat Hard" over the first few weeks, after a slower warm up speed.

You may also estimate a starting walking speed (and incline if you are using a treadmill) using the Walking Metabolic Calculator. Take note of your predicted maximum METs from the 1 mile walk test. Calculate a percentage of your predicted METs; 50% for "poor" fitness up to 85% for Excellent fitness. Find the appropriate speed and incline to reach this target MET level. You would still be advised to supplement this suggested intensity with your rating of perceived exertion.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a physician to perform a Stress EKG test before VIGOROUS exercise for those with certain risk factors; see Modified ACSM Health Classification Questionnaire. Incidentally, an EKG test can give you your true MHRmax. The PAR-Q or the Exercise Readiness Questionnaire will let you know if MODERATE exercise is appropriate. In either case, you may want ask your physician if he would suggest any medical tests or exercise guidelines. Incidentally, if you are on medications that affect heart rate the test results for the 1 mile walk test will be invalid. Good luck!

Walking Frequency

I have completed the Walk Test and determined the Suggested Program; I would like to know if the program is to be done daily for the 20 weeks.

The original Rockport Walking Program suggested 5 days per week. The frequency should actually depend upon on your individual fitness goals, available time, predisposition to certain overuse injuries, and other activities you plan on incorporating into your program. Some people may choose to walk everyday for various reasons including weight management or to better control blood sugar levels, yet, others may choose to walk 3 days a week, while performing other activities such as weight training on alternating days. There may be slightly more benefit with higher frequency, but the chance of overuse injuries may increase with greater freqency (ie: most days of the week), whereas, some people may not have any problems on a daily walking program. Also see Aerobic Exercise Guidelines for Specific Goals.

Sudden Shift in Walking Energy Requirements

Great site, use and recommend it all the time. In making some improvements to a weight loss spreadsheet I built, I was using the Run/ Walk calculator to confirm usage of the formula it’s based on. I found an issue.

So the MET’s and the VO2 results is based on simple formula, totally based on speed. So if speed doubles, those should double.

Try walking 2 mph, NET results – 1.5 MET’s and 5.4 VO2. Right on, 53.6448 meters/min * 0.1= VO2, and VO2/3.5=MET’s. Now try walking 4 mph, NET results – 3.9 MET’s and 13.6 VO2. Nope, 107.2896 meters/min * 0.1 = 10.7 VO2, and 10.7/3.5=3.1 MET’s. That of course messes up the calorie calculation too when you take VO2*kg/200*minutes.

I figured out the turning point in accuracy in the walking calcultor is between 3.73 and 3.74 mph (more precisely between 3.731 and 3.732)

  •   3.71 mph => 3.8 mets
  •   3.72 mph => 3.8 mets
  •   3.73 mph => 3.9 mets
  •   3.74 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.75 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.76 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.77 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.78 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.79 mph => 4.4 mets
  •   3.80 mph => 4.5 mets

Why in the world it would take a nose dive then I can’t tell. Since the corresponding meters/min also is wrong at that point, can’t be the metric conversion from MPH. I’m guessing either the ACSM formula changed from 2000 and you’ve applied it to some in-between speeds, even though I can’t find comment of that on any other sites yet. Or there is a real issue in the formula for some strange reason? I’ve not looked at running speeds over 8 mph to see any issue there, but 5-8 seem fine on running.

Walk Run Metabolic Calculator

I created this calculator in Oct-Nov 2004, so it took me a bit of time to review the various steps and formulas I had used and to recall issues involving its development. Notice in the ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription the notation for the ACSM walking formula (page 173 of the most recent 9th edition). You’ll notice the ACSM formula is most accurate for speeds at 50-100 m/min. And as I hope you will see, there is a good reason for that upper range limitation.

The formula used I used to predict energy expenditures beyond 100 m/min was created by Bubb, Martin & Howley (source also cited on the walk/run calculator page.

In fact, I invited Dr. Edward T Howley, [incidentally, also a former President of ACSM (2002-2003)] to review the calculator shortly after I posted it on We primarily discussed the contrast between figures in one of his textbooks (Fitness Professionals Handbook) which round figures early in the algorithm versus how javascript handles rounding. We never discussed the shift in METs using his formula.

At first glance, this jump in METs may appear to be a disparity possibly caused by some discrepancy or population variations from two different studies. However, this sudden rise in energy requirements makes much more sense once you plot out the resulting data on a graph and think about its implications. In April 2012 did just that, displaying the running and walking efficiencies of various speeds.

You can see a distinct jump in energy requirements around the point in which you had identified where faster walking speeds become less energy efficient instead of more efficient. If energy expenditure for walking where linear we would likely be able to walk much faster. I hope that clarifies this distinct shift the energy requirements of walking and my decision to use an additional formula to estimate walking energy requirements above 100 m/min.

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